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6 Tips to a Better Podcast Today

You never know what the future holds for new media. Will it flounder and gradually die out, as in the case of Google+, or will it flourish and evolve?

If you’d have asked me ten years ago to predict the future of podcasting, I’d have guessed it was a niche medium that would go the way of the dinosaurs. Instead, it’s steadily continued to adapt and thrive. In fact, between the last time I wrote about podcasting in 2012 and today, the number of active podcasts on iTunes has ballooned from 40,000 to over 60,000.

This growth has been spurred, in part, by the so-called “Serial effect” — a captivating, massively popular true-crime storytelling series created by This American Life producer Sarah Koenig that helped raised public awareness of podcasts in general. Serial has sparked a wider interest, to be sure, but advances in apps, SEO opportunities, and advertising have also carried the medium forward.

Today’s podcasting advantages

In 2016, more and more brands are jumping into the podcasting game — we’re talking big brands like Apple, ESPN, MTV, and Dean & DeLuca. But there are still plenty of listeners out there for the little brands. Individual and small business entrepreneurs can especially benefit from the relationship-building possibilities of podcasting, such as:

  • new client referrals,
  • speaking opportunities at industry events,
  • thought leadership,
  • partnerships and networking,
  • and elevated community profiles.

There’s never been a better time than now to podcast. So I figured now’s the time to bring you up to speed with six trends, tips and best practices to help your podcast succeed today — and earn better marketing results tomorrow.

Get familiar with the current mobile app leaders

Mobile makes everything better, and podcasts are no exception. Apple’s Podcasts app, which auto-installed on all Apple devices with the release of iOS 8, wound up giving a huge boost to the medium through nothing other than easy proximity — for the first time ever, people who had never before heard a podcast could now access them via a few quick taps. But while the Podcasts app and iTunes have virtually dominated for a number of years, the Apple monopoly is finally breaking up.

A major contender is, of course, Google. Last month Google Play Music announced they’d added a podcast library plus contextual recommendations, at last bringing native podcast support to Android. But third-party apps can more than hold their own, with popular choices like Stitcher, Overcast, and Castro offering functionality that others don’t.

More and more music-streaming apps like Spotify and Soundcloud are incorporating podcasts, but last year Pandora took a unique approach by announcing they’d be the exclusive streaming partner for the Serial and This American Life podcasts, offering each episode in easily-digestible five-minute chunks. Which conveniently leads me to my next tip…

Break your show out into “chapters”

Let’s face it, it’s difficult to commit fully to anything, let alone a 20-60 minute podcast. From interruptions like kids to a ringing phone to the grind of the daily commute, be aware that your listeners will probably start and stop your podcast several times during the course of the episode.

Simply adding chapter markers to your podcast audio file using an app like Podcast Chapters will make it easier for listeners to jump back in where they left off, with the added benefit of making it easier to share clips and snippets from your show. Which in turns brings me to the next tip…

Create shareable multimedia around your podcast

One of the challenges of audio is that it’s difficult to market. A listener who loves your podcast might evangelize about it on social media, but engagement essentially stops there. Imagine coming across a link to a podcast in your feeds — even if the recommendation comes from a trusted friend, are you going to drop what you’re doing and listen to the whole episode? No. That’s asking way too much of your time and attention.

Recognizing these limitations, the marketing team behind Serial set out to build a library of media to build buzz for second season. They generated shareable clips, photos, GIFs, and videos that were posted on the website as well as across their social media accounts. And while you may not have a whole marketing team behind you to support your podcast, you’d do well to take a page out of their book. Creating a variety of both visual and audio clips in support of your show will not only help drum up interest, it will make it much easier for fans to share out to their circles.

Put your best SEO foot forward

Podcast SEO has always been difficult because, well, a search engine can’t read audio files. You can do a lot by:

  1. Making sure that each of your podcasts gets its own targeted and optimized episode page URL, title, and summary with images and direct links to media files. These are often published using a blogging platform.
  2. Creating and appropriately maintaining an RSS feed for your podcast that’s connected to your website.
  3. Optimizing your podcast to be as discoverable as possible in all the directories. This includes using keywords in your podcast profiles and description submissions.

But more help is on the way. Google just announced that they’ll include podcasts in search results on the Android Google App, and hopefully this functionality will eventually be opened up to all search.

Don’t forget to submit to the top directories

There are dozens of directories that list podcasts, but if you’re going to submit to any — and you should! — you should absolutely submit to these five:

  • iTunes
  • Google Play Music
  • Stitcher
  • TuneIn
  • Miro

Not only are these directories among the largest and most popular, they help ensure you get listed elsewhere, too. For example, submitting to iTunes means you will also be listed in Overcast, Downcast, iCatcher! and other smaller yet influential directories.

Improve by studying negative reviews

One of the best ways to get tips on what not to do is to spend some time scanning recent negative podcast reviews. Some of the most common complaints are:

  • Too much chit-chat. There’s no quicker way to lose interest than a long, rambling introduction. You don’t like feeling like your time is being wasted, and neither do your listeners. Try to reign in your inner DJ personality and cut to the chase.
  • Terrible sound quality. You don’t need to spend a lot for a decent pair of headphones and a microphone that filters out background noise. Inexpensive apps exist that will help you edit out stray coughs and sniffles, too. A little clean up goes a long way.
  • Dishonesty. Some hosts load up their descriptions with popular keywords that don’t even apply to their podcasts — kind of like the audio equivalent of spamming your Instagram posts with trending hashtags. Don’t be that kind of Instagrammer, and don’t be that kind of podcaster!

With some time and effort, podcasting can be a viable content marketing strategy for your business. Good luck out there!

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